Jerry walked into Mack's Bar at three o'clock on the dot just like he did every day. The complete silence of the place hit him like a sack of bricks. No one playfully called out, "Hey, Dipshit's here," like they always did when he came in. He glanced around at the dimly lit surroundings of his home away from home.
"Where the hell is Lou, Frank, and Mack?" he wondered. It seemed a bit strange to him that nobody was around. He couldn't recall the bar ever being so empty and quiet.
Just then a short, skinny guy came out from the back hallway that lead to the bathrooms. He had on a black t-shirt with "Fuck the Libs" printed in white block letters on it and an Atlanta Braves ball cap squeezed tightly onto his head.
"Oh hey, sidle up to the bar. I'll be right with ya," he said with just a hint of a southern drawl. Jerry slid into his regular spot at the far end of the bar and sized the stranger up. He figured the kid couldn't be any older than twenty-five, twenty-six years-old, but judging by his shirt he liked him already.
He spun towards the kid and asked him, "So, where's Mack? No, don't tell me, don't tell me; he's out back smoking, am I right?" The grin on Jerry's face fully displayed his yellowed dentures. He got a kick out of Mack not being able to smoke in his own bar anymore, but it also kind of pissed him off. As far as he was concerned, it was just one more stupid law passed by whiny crybabies and they weren't going to stop until they watered down the whole damn country.
The young stranger, oblivious to Jerry's words, went behind the bar and started nosing around under the counter. "Where's Mack keep the, there we go." He pulled a notebook out, flipped to the back and tore out a sheet of paper.
He pulled out a pen from his back pocket and scrawled, "Out of ordeR," in fat letters on the page. Fishing a wad of gum out of his mouth, he stuck it to the back of the make shift sign. "Be right back."
He headed back towards the bathroom. A moment later he returned. "Sorry 'bout that, what can I get ya?"
Jerry remembered just how thirsty he was. Thinking about that first swig of cold beer jump started his salivary glands. The bartender did a slight double take when the old man replied, "Mug of Schlitz and a Double Jack."
"Coming right up." The new bartender pulled a mug from the freezer and swung it under the tap. He set a cold, golden mug of Jerry's favorite beer on the bar and turned to get the Jack Daniels and Yukon Jack. Jerry greedily grabbed the frosty mug. It was his number one motivation for waking up in the afternoon. "Ya know, two guys ordered the same thing a little while ago."
The old man wiped the froth from his unruly mustache with his sleeve and said, "That'll be Lou and Frank. Are they in the back with Mack?"
"Naw, they slugged theirs down and left with Mack not too long ago."
"You don't say? That don't seem right. Where the hell did they go?"
The kid shrugged, "Couldn't tell ya." Looking like he wanted to appease the old man, he smiled and said, "I'm sure they'll be back a little later."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Jerry said between two big swigs of beer. "Mack never leaves the bar and the only place Lou and Frank can be found this time of day is right here on these two barstools." He swung his half empty mug towards the stools on either side of him.
"You ready for another mug?"
"Oh, yeah, yeah," Jerry slugged the shot sitting in front of him and downed the rest of his beer. The kid slid another mug in front of the old man.
"Another shot?" he asked as he dunked the empty mug and shot glass into the sudsy water in the sink under the counter.
"Nope, every third beer will do just fine. I gotta be able to drive later," he said with a grin only guys from his generation were able to pull off. "Ya know kid; you're the first employee Mack's ever hired."
"Really?" the kid said as Jerry tipped about a fourth of his second beer down his gullet.
The expert drunk wiped his mouth on his sleeve again and let out a loud belch. "No, I'm serious, all these years and you're the first. Getting old sucks, kid."
The new guy dried off a few clean mugs, put them in the freezer and stuck his hand out. "Well, ya can call me Jack."
Jerry left him hanging while he lowered his beer to the half way mark. He finally set his mug down and firmly shook the kid's hand. "You can call me whatever you want as long as you keep 'em coming, but my birth certificate says Jerry."
"Alright, I've got to check on something. I'll be back in a minute to fill ya up again."
"Ah, don't worry 'bout it, kid. I can reach the tap, but I am gonna need another Double Jack when ya get back, Jack."
He matched the old fogey's yellowed grin with a white, weak one of his own. Jack headed towards the back again. Jerry downed the second half of his beer in one long pull, ran his beer dampened sleeve across his mouth, and then leaned over the bar to fill up his mug.
Just as he was settling back onto his stool, he heard a slight momentary noise coming from the back hall. It reminded him of Mack's signature smoker's wheeze. "What the?" Just then Jack came out from the back hall.
"Ready for that shot?"
Jerry was feeling a bit woozy. It was way too early for him to be getting the spins. "Not just yet, I think I better stick to beer for a while. Hey, what's going on back there?"
Jack shook his head, "Uh, nothing, why? Oh yeah, the uh, men's toilet is backed up. Ya better not go in there." He uttered a silly little laugh then clapped his hand over his mouth like a child might do when he feels he's said too much.
"Okay..." Jerry turned back to his beer as Jack went behind the bar. "So what's a young guy like yourself working in a dump like this for?"
The kid smiled awkwardly. "Ever since Papa died, we've been..." he laughed that silly laugh again. "I've been driving up the coast and doing a bit of bartending to pay my way." He took a deep breath, rubbed his temples and blurted out a series of questions. "How busy does this place usually get? Do you get a big happy hour crowd? Is it just old dudes that come in here?"
Jerry was beginning to feel uneasy, and it wasn't just his stomach now. "What's gotten into you Jack? I'm pretty sure I heard Mack a minute ago, so tell me what's really going on back there." He tried to stand up and fell against the bar, tipping his beer onto the floor. The mug shattered and sloshed beer and shards of glass at his feet.
The kid began to pull at his hair and stamp around behind the bar like a child having a fit. He let out a shrill cry, "Ah Jack, I'm messing it up again! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
Jerry held himself up against the bar, "What the hell is wrong with you? What's going on?"
Suddenly the bartender's panicked expression turned to one of pure malice. He grabbed a mug and let out an angry screech as he crashed the thick glass down upon Jerry's head. The old man went down hard onto the floor. "You're just like Papa! You're all just like him!" screamed the hysterical kid.
Jerry squirmed on the floor amongst the glass and beer. He could taste blood and bile. He was hurt bad. He knew he was hurt really bad. Right before he blacked out he saw two Jacks standing over him. The last thing he heard was, "All you had to do was keep your cool until he passed out and then put him with the others. Damn it! We've got to get this cleaned up before the happy hour crowd rolls in. Get his legs, Dummy."
"I'm so sorry Jack. Your way is just so slow. I liked hurting him like I did Papa. It made me feel better."
Bill slipped out of work about a half hour early. He just really needed a beer after the shitty week he had. It was Earl's turn to work until shift end and clock him out. It wasn't happy hour yet, but he knew Mack wouldn't charge him full price for being just a little early. He stepped into the bar and exclaimed, "Well, I'll be damned! That Cheap ass Mack finally hired himself a bartender."
Jack smiled, "What can I get ya?"
Written by Kolpik